January 21, 2015

1943. Decimating the Axis Forces

The Soviet Winter Counteroffensive
Soviet soldier in 1942 wearing SN-42 body armor (source)
The parentheses indicate text that did not pass Soviet censors for military security or propaganda reasons.

(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

January 26, 1943

Josef Stalin issued a special order of the day to the Red Army in which he expressed his gratitude and congratulations to his officers and men for their victories during the 68 days of the winter offensive.

He also revealed some interesting figures concerning Axis losses during this period. He said that 102 enemy divisions had been routed and over 200,000 prisoners taken. These prisoners are in addition to the half-million Nazis and Fascists killed since the Russian offensive began on November 19.

According to the army newspaper Red Star, Hitler is now demanding that his Axis partners in crime order complete mobilization and send all their reserves to make up the losses suffered on the Eastern Front. The newspaper says that the jackal states are resisting these demands. Take a glance at what they have already lost in trying to defeat Russia and you can understand why.

Rumania has suffered the biggest losses incurred by the vassal states. She sent 22 divisions against Russia and already has lost 18 of them. It is estimated that Rumania has a bare five or six divisions left at home—and remember she has a long-standing feud with Hungary. Now Hitler is demanding those half-dozen Rumanian divisions.

Hungary sent 13 divisions to the Russian front. This comprised about half of her army. Out of these divisions, she lost nine (in this tremendous fighting.)

Mussolini decided that ten of his Italian divisions would be a fair representation of his (once-swaggering) empire when the (victorious) Axis troops marched down Gorky Street in Moscow. This was about the same number as were serving under Rommel in North Africa. Now Il Duce finds that he has lost seven of these ten perfectly good divisions and is complaining that, if he sends any more to Russia, American and British soldiers fighting in North Africa may make things even more unpleasant for him.

However, in tallying up the Axis losses for the past two months, the best reading is on the German losses. Of those 102 routed divisions which Josef Stalin mentioned in his order of the day, 68 of them are German. (When the Red Army routed those 68 divisions, it routed something like 130,000 of what Hitler likes to call "supermen." This fact is going to stop a lot of loose fascist talk about the "invincibility" of the German army.)

However, it's a good thing to remember that, while the routing of 102 divisions is the worst thing that has yet happened to Hitler, he still has a lot of other divisions sitting (in dugouts, trenches, and pillboxes) along the 1,200 mile Russian front. (According to Stalin's own figures,) last November there were 240 Axis divisions opposing Russia. That leaves 138 divisions to go. And no one here is fooling themselves into thinking that defeating this bunch (of Nazis and Fascists) is going to be an easy job.

It must also be remembered that, when Stalin said 102 divisions were routed, he did not mean they were completely destroyed. Remnants of these routed divisions are even now being reformed and reorganized.

Hitler calls his great Russian winter retreat an "elastic defense." It is fairly certain he is going to try to put some snap into it this spring. But he's working with synthetic material that he can only stretch so far. Hitler's ersatz allies have already been badly broken under the strain.

Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

February 23, 1943

Josef Stalin's order of the day to commemorate the Red Army's 25th anniversary is another in a series of United Nations documents which will go into history as a chronicle of these times in which we live.

Essentially, this order of the day is a military document. It chronicles the progress of the most amazing military campaign the world has ever known.

However, it also contains some other exceedingly interesting statements which will be closely studied by Russia's allies, and most certainly by her enemies.

As the Red Army today continues to flog the Axis forces toward Russia's western border, Premier Stalin issued a statement, "The Red Army is an army of defense of the peace and friendship between the peoples of all countries. It is created not for conquering foreign countries, but for the defense of the border of the Soviet territory." This statement is going to receive a lot of study as the Russian offensive progresses.

The Soviet commander-in-chief made only one reference to the second front, pointing out that the Red Army still carries the major burden of the war alone. This single reference to the second front—and an exceedingly mild reference it was—is interpreted here as meaning that the Russian command is in complete agreement with combined strategy as outlined between the United Nations. Both President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill have been promising an Anglo-American front in Europe. Presumably the Soviet government is satisfied with the American and British plans to put this front into operation.

Mr. Stalin said that nine million Axis soldiers have been put out of action during the 20 months that Hitler's forces have been fighting on Russian territory. This presumably includes the Axis forces put out of the war by sickness and frostbite and other exigencies of a Russian campaign, as well as those German-Fascist soldiers killed, wounded, or captured on the battlefield or struck down in the German rear by guerrillas.

This means that, every day during the past 20 months of fighting, Hitler has been losing his army personnel at the average rate of some 15,000 men a day. Of this number, and for every day of the 20 month war period, an average of 6,500 Axis soldiers have been killed every day on some point of the thousand mile Russian battle line. South and southwest of Kharkov, north of Kursk, in the Don Bass, the Northern Caucasus, and southwest of Leningrad, this slaughter of Hitler's armed might still goes on today.

At first glance, these figures are exceedingly high until you figure out the enormous forces involved, the immense distances of the front, and the tremendous scope of such Russian victories as the recent ones at Stalingrad and in the Northern Caucasus. Premier Stalin said the blows of the present Red Army offensive would increase instead of decreasing, as some military analysts throughout the world have been predicting.

Yes, Josef Stalin's order of the day is another of those documents from the United Nations which will be remembered as an Allied milestone on the road to victory. This order of the day is part of the series which includes the Atlantic Charter, the United States Navy's communiqué on the Battle of Midway, and others.

This series of official documents will be remembered along with the most important official paper of all: the Armistice.